As has already been reported, Minister of State for Resort Development Sandy Santori announced earlier today he was resigning his cabinet post and would be vacating his legislative seat at the end of the month. In a scrum, he answered questions about the reasons for that departure and his decision to become general manager of the Rossland Trail Golf Club. The following is a rush transcript of that scrum.
Media Sandy - tell us about your decision.
Minister Santori I'm sure you've heard that early in December I ended up in the hospital for about three days with some heart-related symptoms. And, although the tests have come back negative, this is the second time I've had something similar in the last three and a half years. And maybe if it had happened at a time other than Christmas, I wouldn't be here before you guys making this call. But when you're with family and friends and people that you love, you put kind of things into perspective a little bit in terms of you have to ask yourself what your priorities are. This has definitely been an honour and a privilege for me. And it's a tough decision. But I've got to put my family first. And I will put them first.
Media When did you inform the premier of your decision?
Minister Santori About a week ago, unfortunately. I feel bad for the premier. Hawaii doesn't seem to be a good spot for him to be. But I managed to track him down in Hawaii after a good 48 hour rendezvous in my head in terms of what I wanted to do. And again, you actually get a chance to be at home with your kids. And I had to make that call.
Media What's the status of your health right now? You said tests came back negative.
Minister Santori In medical terms, I'm a healthy person. Having said that, my dad died of a heart attack. My mom died of a heart attack. My brother has had two. So I just came back from Vegas. And I learned a lesson down there as well that you've got to play the odds. And this is one I'm not about to gamble with. So I'm healthy. The tests were negative. And I want to make sure it stays that way.
Media Have you quit smoking?
Minister Santori I did up until today because I was very nervous. And when I got back into Victoria - it's a great city, it's a great place. And the legislature is a place that I'm very proud of. And all British Columbia should be very proud of Victoria. So I'm going to get back off (the cigarettes). As I said, it hasn't been easy. I resigned from cabinet effectively immediately. But I do want to stay on until January 31. I have three or four files of constituents that are important to me. And I know they're very important to themselves personally. And I hope I can help them out, as I've tried to do over the last three and a half, four years.
Media Sandy, I'm glad to hear that you're feeling okay today. But I've got to ask you about this job. How long has this job been around? And how did it coincide that you had a very serious talk with yourself and out your life and whatnot and your heart condition and then you got a brand-new job?
Minister Santori Well, the job when it actually became known to me that they were seeking another person at the same time I was having thoughts about whether or not I wanted to pursue it. I made a call and I met with someone and I asked them if there was an opportunity...
Media When was that? When?
Minister Santori This would have been shortly after I was out of the hospital - about the eighth, ninth or tenth somewhere in the there.
Media So in very short order?
Minister Santori I'm guessing about December 15 or 16. Somewhere in there. And then I met with them after Christmas - about January 3 I guess it would have been.
Media And then the deal was done and you got this job?
Minister Santori On January 3.
Media Who specifically did you meet with to talk about the job?
Minister Santori I met with the president of the board.
Media Who would be?
Minister Santori The Rossland Trail Country Club.
Media Whose name would be?
Minister Santori Oh, Lloyd McClellan.
Media Do you know if the premier has decided to fill your cabinet portfolio?
Minister Santori You'll have to ask the premier that question.
Media You took the job on January 3 and you told the premier when?
Minister Santori About a week prior to that
Media And you're resigning from cabinet today?
Minister Santori Yes.
Media So why did you remain in cabinet once you got a new job?
Minister Santori I'm sorry I don't start my new position until February.
Media You don't see it as a conflict between being the resort minister and (heading) a golf course?
Minister Santori I won't be a resort minister as of today.
Media How do you feel about the job you've done as the minister of state for resort development? You've had some big issues.
Minister Santori I think, in terms of the strategy I developed along with staff and stakeholders across the province, we've put a product together that's been lauded across this province and across this country. And I think British Columbia has a great opportunity to expand its resort development in a sustainable manner. And I think we have put forth a plan that can see some very positive growth. In my area alone, in the Kootenays, which have suffered economically as a resource-based community, we're seeing a tremendous amount of prosperity. And I'll use my own backyard in Rossland which is experiencing the most significant growth it has decades in terms of development at the base of the ski hill. In terms of the economy in my area alone this is the first time in 30 years that we've been in single digits unemployment. And that what makes it even a much more difficult decision for me to step aside at a time when, finally, after we've been so dependent on the Teck Cominicos of the world, we're seeing some diversity in our area.
Media What will people make of all these continuing series of cabinet resignations?
Minister Santori I think people can make of it what they want. I think everybody that makes a decisions, makes decisions in terms of what's in their best personal interest - as well as what's in the best interest of government. It would have been very easy for me to have made a decision to just back off, slow down and don't work as hard. But I'm not prepared to continue on and do a job if I can't give it 110 percent. I've never been known to give less than a 110 percent. And I'm not going to continue now.
Media You're the third minister that's resigned from cabinet and won't be back in politics. What does it say about the chances of this government to be re-elected?
Minister Santori There's absolutely no question this government will be re-elected. And, I think, when it comes to May 17, 2005, when people reflect back (they will remember) there have been some difficult decisions and there has been some tough choices. But, having said that, we made a commitment to turn this province around economically that will allow us to provide the social programs and the health and education programs we have out there. And we have done that. We have turned the economy around. And the prospects of the future look even better. And I think you will see that we'll be able to deliver on exactly what we said we'd do.
Media Will you be active in politics come May 17?
Minister Santori Not to the degree that I have in the best. I know I've only done four years in the provincial government. But I've been in public life. I've served eight years as mayor and five as a councilor. That's 17 years in public life. And I think I've paid my price to society. I've enjoyed every minute of it. I've met some great people and had some great experiences. And yes, I've we've had some tough times. But, at the end of the day, I'm very appreciative of the premier having given me the honor and privilege of having served in cabinet. And I'm very pleased and proud of the fact we've delivered on the vast majority of the promises that we made as a government.
Media When you talked to the premier, you told him you were planning to look for work or you told you planning on not running again?
Minister Santori No, at that time I told him I wasn't going to run again. And the premier had asked me, at that time, when that would happen. And I said, "I am pursuing another opportunity. And if this opportunity pans out, my notification will come out a lot quicker then it normally would have."
Media We you already nominated?
Minister Santori Yes. I had my nomination on December 9 in Rossland. And I was very positive and gung ho with my riding association and my supporters. But as you get closer to Christmas...
Media You were very gung ho on December 9 at the nomination meeting. But then you had this event. And it's really changed your thinking dramatically. It's changed it 180 degrees.
Minister Santori Yeah. And that job will do that to you Les (Leyne).
Media But can I be a little more specific about what that was? It wasn't quite angina I understand...
Minister Santori Well, I've been told it's...what's the technical term...oh my Lord.
Media I talked to the premier about this earlier and he didn't...
Minister Santori Acute coronary syndrome.
Media And it caused you to reassess your whole life like that?
Minister Santori Well, that in itself kind of gets the wheels turning inside your head. And as I said earlier, for all of us I think Christmas is a special time. And we become a lot more sentimental we would normally be at certain periods of time. And things are put into perspective when you're with family and friends. And you start to think, you're here today and you're enjoying it. And I don't want to risk not being here yesterday.
Media Is it the stress of the job that would make that condition worse or possibly make it worse?
Minister Santori Well, definitely. Like I said, having been the second time that this has happened, you have to put emphasis on the fact that it is a stressful job. And politics isn't the only stressful job. I'm sure there are stresses that come with your position. And when you have a family history, you have to play the odds and weigh that and put it in perspective.
Media Is it the press corp?
Minister Santori No. It's not the press corp. This isn't new. Stress has always been there. But some people manage stress a lot better. For those that have got to know me, I tend to take things a lot more personal. Things do affect me. I don't like...
Media When Sindi Hawkins was facing the challenges we know about, she took the opportunity to promote better awareness. Much more giving of our blood and whatever. Is there anything that you'll change in your lifestyle that you would recommend other British Columbians do, aside from quitting smoking? And I refer to a healthier lifestyle all around. Is it, for you, an opportunity to promote that aspect?
Minister Santori Well, it goes without saying but better with saying. You touched on it. I mean, I'm not proud of the fact I'm a smoker. But, quite frankly, being a smoker - given the statistics and proof and evidence that is there - is a stupid thing to do. Having said that, I also recognize it's a serious addiction and one that is costing our healthcare system a ton of money. - let alone what it does to people personally. And yes, lifestyle and exercise (are important) - which I've always done even when I was smoking. As a matter of fact, I did a half marathon about two years ago with a doctor friend of mine who said that I totally defy medical research. And I actually beat the doctor in the half marathon who was a non-smoker. But that doesn't make it right. So healthier lifestyles and right choices - I think that should be a given.
Media So who's going to get your nomination now?
Minister Santori I'm not in a position to...
Media Are you aware of anyone who is interested in taking about your torch?
Minister Santori Not at this point.
Media If a friend of yours asks advice...
Minister Santori Am I a friend of yours Vaughn (Palmer)?
Media ...on whether or not to get into politics, what advice would you give them?
Minister Santori Yes, I think that I would tell them to get into politics. But I think they have to go in with the realization that there's more to life than your job and more to life than politics. And, anytime that you decide to do something you should put that into perspective and you have to establish priorities. And like my colleague Christy Clark, obviously she put her priorities into place which was her son and her family. And I totally respect her for that decision. And for someone like Gary Collins, whom I sure most of you know I've never met anyone who works as hard as he can. And how he can. And he lives in Vancouver which is just a jaunt away - a 20 minute flight. And I live, if you can land, in Castlegar. And for a one day meeting here in Vancouver, I've got to leave a day before and I've got to stay an extra day. So it's three days to come down here for a day of meetings. So, for family life, you better realize what you're giving up - irregardless of all the other things that come with the politics. The media. The criticism. The scrutiny. And everything else. But you know that going in. Just have a good understanding if you're doing this for glory and accolades then you're not in the right business. You should be doing something else.
Media How did you get to know the people at the golf course?
Minister Santori Well I've been a member of the Rossland Trail Country Club for, God, over 20 years now - since 1979. This is not the first time I've considered actually doing that job, to be quite honest with you. I've thought about it before that it would be something that I would enjoy getting into. I've always been into marketing and management.
Media Do you have concerns about the direction taken by this government? I talked to your colleague Dan Jarvis today about a rightward drift. What do you think?
Minister Santori Let me very honest with you: did we all agree with everything we did as a government? No. Did we make some mistakes? Sure we did. Every government makes mistakes. When you take everything in its entirety, in terms of direction and getting to achieving a goal that we've established - which our number one priority was turning the economy around - I think that we've been extremely successful. And that fact we've made difficult decisions - I know it's hard on people. And no one likes to see that. And no one more than the premier doesn't like to see people affected by tough decisions. But, even as parents, we make tough decisions even with our own family. But that doesn't make us bad parents because we have to make some tough calls.
Media What are you most proud of in your public life?
Minister Santori I'm most proud of the fact that I've always given the best and most I can. And I think that if you talk to anyone in the constituency - even those who don't agree with my politics - I feel very confident that I can wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and look at anybody on the street and they know Sandy Santori worked his butt off, despite the fact that we may have disagreed.
Media Have you ever had any dealings with the golf club in your capacity as minister of state for resort development?
Minister Santori Absolutely not.
Media How long has that position been vacant or was it vacant when you inquired about it?
Minister Santori A couple months. I'm guessing.
Media Was that before you inquired (about the job)?
Minister Santori Oh no. I didn't inquire until around December 15 or 16.
Media Will you ever run for mayor again?
Minister Santori No. This is official. I've always wanted to retire early although I do have to continue to work. This is retirement from politics - although I will continue to be a volunteer and do what I can to help my community. We have the Winter Games coming up to Trail in 2006. And I'd be more than happy to help out with them and anything else that deals with the betterment of our community or any of the charities I've worked for in the past.
Media What are the chances a Liberal will likely to be re-elected in your riding?
Minister Santori I think the chances are extremely well in my riding?
Media Would you say that politics has been bad for your health?
Minister Santori No. I wouldn't say politics is bad. If that was the case, I would have been dead a long time ago. No. I don't believe it was. But, again, put things in perspective. I'm here today. I'm alive and well. And I want to keep it that way.